Hotel association backs Safe Outdoor Spaces appeals: ‘SOSs actually increase crime, are harmful to the economy’

By New Mexico Sun Report

Dec 14, 2022

Karl Holme, executive director of the Greater Albuquerque Hotel & Lodging Association, fully supports Bob Reule of the Menaul Business Coalition in opposing the implementation of Safe Outdoor Spaces.

Reule sent a letter to City Councilor Trudy Jones saying its research suggests “SOSs actually increase crime, are harmful to the economy and in direct conflict with City revitalization and flourishing neighborhoods.”

Holme agrees. “Our association is in support of the appellants against the 1250 Menaul NE Safe Outdoor Space – Dawn Legacy application process in its current form, and in the rush to get things moving, it seems haphazard, as there are few concrete details presented to the public to appropriately allay their fears and concerns,” Holme said in a release.

At least eight organizations have filed appeals against the Dawn Legacy Point Safe Outdoor Spaces homeless tent encampment, asking the Albuquerque City Planning Department to reverse its decision and deny the Safe Outdoor Space application of Dawn Legacy for 1250 Menaul NE. This comes after the city Planning Department unilaterally reviewed the application in private a few months ago with no notice to surrounding businesses or neighborhood associations, no public hearing and no public input.

The Greater Albuquerque Hotel & Lodging Association represents hotels, lodging and tourism partners. Holme said the association is empathetic toward efforts to manage the homelessness crisis but said hotel operators have “an intimate understanding” of how to manage lodging and deal with the daily challenges that homelessness and behavioral issues create.

“It requires substantial security measures along with a well put together, a meaningful game plan supported by a team of dedicated and experienced professionals to execute and follow through successfully,” Holme said in the letter. “It seems that so far, a complete concrete game plan along with associated partnerships identified has not been presented.”

In the letter to Jones, Reule suggested there are more “humane and effective solutions” for sheltering the homeless and pointed to the City Housing 1st program and its brick-and-mortar accommodations.

Reule’s letter said the city “funded $59,498,915 million to Family & Community Services in fiscal year 2022 to help care for 1,311 homeless individuals, as identified by the HUD Point in Time Survey,” and spent $15 million to purchase the Gibson Medical Center for a shelter.

“We continually hear the mantra that we have to do something,” Reule wrote. “But SOSs are not the proper solution for the homeless occupants when the City has made the investment to properly house, properly secure, feed, medically treat, counsel and care for the homeless in an environment that is nurturing and not in conflict with the viability of our fragile business communities and neighborhoods.”

The letter to Jones referred to the Las Cruces’ Camp Hope, an SOS model the city of Albuquerque is praising. “It’s worthy of further review, as there is more data coming out from the early adopters such as Seattle, Portland, Denver and many others,” Holme wrote. “We suggest instead of barreling forward, it merits a slower and more deliberate approach, learning from other communities and gathering best practices by those pushing this program.”

Properly informing neighbors remains a concern. The Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association, one of the organizations that filed an appeal, said it was outraged to learn about the first Safe Outdoor Space forming at 1250 Menaul NE, which falls in their neighborhood boundaries.

“The city has imposed on the residents’ methadone clinics, crime, property destruction, and filthiness throughout the neighborhood,” SBMTNA President Loretta Lopez previously told the New Mexico Sun.

Holme claims other cities that have tried the Safe Outdoor Spaces model, including Seattle, Portland and Denver, have found it to be ineffective, economically destructive and in many cases life-threatening.